French Island National Park

Barbecue Bike riding Drinking water Fishing Kiosk/Restaurant Swimming Toilets Wildlife Camping area Information Picnic area Ranger Walking


Just a short ferry ride from the Mornington Peninsula lies the small but fascinating French Island, two-thirds of it national park, which comprises a patchwork of environments – open woodlands, flowering heath, salt marsh and mangroves. There are around 580 native plant species and an astonishing 100 varieties of orchid (most flower in spring to summer). French explorers sailed into Bass Strait in 1802 and named the island Ile de Françoise, though the first European settlement was not until around 1842. Chicory farming sustained the island for many years, and a small group of permanent residents still farm land here today. For several decades during the 1900s a prison farm was operated on the island.

French Island is known for its healthy population of koalas, the many long-nosed potoroos, and the prolific birdlife, with more than 230 species as well as many migratory waders. Along the food-rich mudflats watch for ibis, herons and egrets and, from much further afield, the eastern curlew and red-necked stint.

The only vehicles permitted are the rangers’ cars and a few tour buses, and the leisurely pace means there is time to enjoy the island’s natural treasures. There is plenty to do. Walking, terrific birdwatching, kayaking, snorkelling and swimming are potential activities, and there are guided tours on offer. Cycling is popular as the island is mainly flat (though tracks can be sandy and a mountain bike is recommended). Check with the ranger for suggested cycling trails. Camping is at Fairhaven (toilets and fresh water). No wood campfires are permitted at any time. Accommodation options include farmstays and B&Bs.

Fact file


Basic camping available

Location and access

75 km south-east of Melbourne via Hastings on Mornington Peninsula to Stony Point then ferry (no vehicles) to Tankerton on French Island; ferry timetable 0408 553 136

Park information

  • PV 13 1963
  • PV French Island (03) 5980 1294


11 100 ha

Visitor information

Tankerton and surrounds (03) 9585 5730


Airs Farm camping area (walk-in camping)

Toast your toes around the open fire (wood supplied) at this private campground, nestled in bushland some 10 km east of Tankerton. The owners will pick you up or you can walk or cycle along Bayview Rd to reach the farm.... Find out more

Fairhaven camping area (walk-in camping)

The Fairhaven campsites are in a beautiful natural setting on the western shore of French Island, 5 km north of Tankerton off Coast Rd. It’s a great spot to kick back for a few days. While you have your feet up,... Find out more

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